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Persian Pomegranate Soup (Ash-e Anar)

Tami of Running With Tweezers set a Super Souper Challenge this month, asking everyone to share their favorite soup recipes.

This is the first time I’ve made this soup, but it may become one of my favorites from now on. It’s adapted from a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for a while now in A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking by Najmieh K. Batmanglij. I was just waiting for someone crazy enough to try it to come over and make it with me. So when my buddy Andrew came over last night, I was set.

As you can see, this soup has a lot going on. It’s sweet and sour and incredibly filling. The garnish is not only beautiful, but also functional – the pomegranate seeds bursting like living garnets add just the right last splash of tartness to each spoonful, and the garlic just melts richly into broth.

I am a devoted carnivore, and I have trouble thinking of anything as a meal unless it contains meat. With this soup, though, the meatballs are a minor concern, and I really feel that I got more energy from the rest of the soup than from the meat itself. How else can I explain a tiny bowl and two itsy bitsy meatballs filling me up?

It is a perfect winter dish, actually. Warm and hearty and satisfying even in small portions, it is a wonderful haven from the winds I hear howling outside.

Persian Pomegranate Soup (Ash-e Anar)
(Adapted from A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking by Najmieh K. Batmanglij)
For the main body of the soup
Oil, butter, or ghee
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 C yellow split peas
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 C chopped fresh parsley
2 C chopped fresh cilantro
1 C chopped fresh mint
2 C chopped scallions (only the green bits)
1 medium beet, peeled and chopped
1 C basmati rice
1/4 C sugar
2 tbsp angelica powder
8 C water
4 1/2 C pomegranate juice
For the meatballs
1/2 lb. ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 medium onion, grated
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 C warm milk
1 slice white bread, crust removed
For the garnish
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp dried spearmint
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Create the body of the soup.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot, and brown the sliced onions until golden. Add the 3 crushed garlic cloves and continue to brown until they, too, have reached a nice color. Throw in the split peas and stir-fry for just a minute or so, then cover with 8 C water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, mint, scallions, and beet. Continue to simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime, make the meatballs.

Heat the milk just until it steams, then press the bread into it and let it soak it up.

Mix together the meat, grated onion, salt, pepper, and parsley. Add only so much milk-soaked bread as can comfortably be incorporated – this should make your meatballs more tenderly toothsome, but only if you don’t over-saturate the meat to the point where you get unincorporated clumps of bread.

Shape the meat into chestnut-sized meatballs.

Return to building the soup.

After those last 20 minutes have passed, add the meatballs and the rice to the pot. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Stir in the pomegranate juice, sugar, and angelica powder. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Taste it, and add more pomegranate juice (or lemon juice, or mango powder) if it is too sweet, or more sugar if it is too sour.

Create the garnish.

Heat a bit of oil in a small pan and stir-fry the 5 crushed garlic cloves until they are golden. Remove from heat and stir in the dried mint and turmeric.

Garnish the soup with that minty gold garlic and fresh pomegranate seeds just before serving.

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22 Responses to “Persian Pomegranate Soup (Ash-e Anar)”

  1. Tanna says:

    That soup is beautiful! Love the pomegranate touch. Just right for 25° outside!!!

  2. zsofi says:

    Wow, this seems to be a labor intesive but very complex soup, I’d love to taste it! Pomegranates are my favorite fruits of the season, this is an exciting way of using them. Danielle, can you help me: what is angelica powder? Thank you. cheers, Zsofi

  3. Danielle says:

    Tanna – No kidding. As far as I’m concerned, winter started this morning with the nasty draft coming in around my back door.

    Zsofi – Angelica is a somewhat musty and fairly bitter spice. The powder is ground up seeds of the plant (people use the root of the same plant to brew tea, I believe). I was only able to find it at Kalustyan’s, which is probably the best spice store I have ever known.

  4. Brilynn says:

    I adore your pictures, they’re always amazing. I also enjoy everything you make! I would love to try some of this soup.

  5. Sarah says:

    How unusual! Looks beautiful and totally delish.

  6. Danielle, this looks fantastic. I know what I’m making for dinner tonight now. And for once I have (almost) all the ingredients in the house. I also have a question about the angelica powder- what does it taste like, and do know if I can substitute something else for it? I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it very easily.

    Cheers, RS

  7. Yvo says:

    OH my… with today’s weather, I am just about ready to dive headfirst into a big bowl of *that*. Mmmm!

  8. Danielle says:

    So, Raspberry Sour, did you end up making it? Did you like it?

    Everyone else – Thank you!

  9. Hi Danielle, I did finally try it last night, albeit a vegetarian version for the BF, with pomegranate molasses, instead of juice, so I had to adjust the amount a little. It was excellent! And I’ll certainly be making it again. I just have to figure out how to keep all the water from being absorbed by the rice next time.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

    Cheers, RS

  10. Danielle says:

    RS – The rice absorbed all the water when I made it, too, and then it was the pomegranate juice added in later that really drew out and became the broth.

  11. Julia says:

    I’m about to make this soup and I couldn’t find Angelica powder any place either. I did some googling and found that it’s primary culinary use is to reduce acidity and bring out sweetness. I also found a source at Mountain Rose Herbs (http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/a.php).

  12. Maiya says:

    I found the Angelica poweder in the wellness section at Whole Foods, by the vitamins and suppliments.

  13. shelley says:

    I am not sure how I found your site, but as soon as I saw this soup I was desperate to make it. Friends are coming tomorrow night, so making the body and will drop in the meatballs and rice tomorrow night. I had buttermilk and oats and ground flax, so added that to the ground lamb with garlic, some tumeric/coriander seed/cumin and a bit of chili. mmmmm

  14. I think I have finally found a pomegranate recipe that is doable.. all the others try to make me do things that I could not possibly figure out with this fruit. I have a love/hate relationship with pomegranate! love it so much but hate to figure out what to do with it!

  15. [...] had read up on the history and tradition of the dish, primarily via the wonderful ethnic food blogs Habeas Brulee and Tigers & Strawberries (which I would highly recommend reading before trying to understand [...]

  16. dana says:

    made this for a friend when her dad passed away. it was so delicious and warm.

  17. Scarlet says:

    This recipe looks amazing but when I made the soup the mint was very overpowering (I didn’t make the garnish) and it made me feel quite queasy.

  18. [...] Ash-e anar is a Persian soup made with pomegranate juice [...]

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